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Learning, not liquor, during break

BY JOSEPH BELK | MARCH 12, 2010 7:30 AM

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Body shots. Beer bongs. Bathing suits.

That’s what many University of Iowa students will experience next week.

But some students are choosing alternate spring-break plans, ones that replace alcohol with altruism.

For the fifth-consecutive year, UI law students will volunteer their skills and time in New Orleans. But this year, their task will change.

Because of the immediate need for physical help after Hurricane Katrina, law students found themselves doing manual labor during the last four trips.

“This is the first year that they’re doing all legal work,” said Linda McGuire, the associate dean for civic engagement at the UI College of Law.

The 20 students, who will have their work supervised by attorneys, will deal with environmental issues, ethnic justice, poverty, and energy issues. The aftermath of the hurricane and a nationwide economic downturn has created challenging legal problems in New Orleans, McGuire said.

Five law students plan to work with Native American tribes on South Dakota reservations. The students will help to organize the appeals systems of the tribal courts.

Others have taken the initiative and put together their own plans to volunteer.

Ten UI students will travel to Haiti during break. Jared Krauss, a UI freshman, organized the trip.

Although he has no special skills, he said, he has some experience with small-scale house repair. The group is looking to do physical labor, he said.

The group hopes to volunteer its time at a hospital, whether it’s helping to coordinate supplies or to keep kids entertained in the children ward and “keep them distracted for a while,” Krauss said.

Krauss said he and his fellow students also hope to learn about the Haitian culture on the trip. He plans to write about his experiences, and one of the students will videotape it for a documentary.

The UI is seeing an increase as a whole of students choosing plans other than heading south to beaches.

The university’s alternative spring-break program, which offers classes such as scuba diving and hiking, has seen its enrollment double since last year.


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